Plants

Cultivating the bindweed

Information and generalities

The Convolvulus genus includes over 250 species of evergreen plants belonging to the Convolvulaceae family. They all have a climbing or shrubby habit, and often grow spontaneously in uncultivated areas or near abandoned houses. They are characteristic for the large trumpet-shaped flowers, often known as «beautiful by day» due to their resemblance to the beautiful by night; the stems are thin but strong, green in color, with large leaves covered with hair. The origins of the various species of convolvulus are predominantly European and Asian, but many of them also thrive on the African continent, including the islands. The common name of the bindweedderives from the Latin convolvere, which means to wrap, to delineate the bearing of this plant. It often happens that bindweed plants, during growth, take root on other plants (mainly those with arboreal habit), compromising their normal development until death.

The most common species


The convolvulus has a vastness of species that differ from each other in size and color of the flowers, leaves and posture. In Italy there are spontaneous and other cultivated species, some of which are available in specialized nurseries. The most common convolvulus on our territory is Convolvulus arvensis, also known as «vilucchio»; it grows spontaneously in rural areas or in mountain pastures, often reaching heights of over two meters. The flowers of this bindweed are white or pink and during the whole summer it produces abundant flowering if the plant is adult and healthy. Convolvulus sabatius is also very common, with large purple flowers, shrubby, often used to decorate rocky slopes. Of considerable interest for its colors is the Convolvulus tricolor, native to Africa;

Cultivating the bindweed


The bindweed needs very little care, since its rusticity and its adaptation have led it to become a spontaneous and invasive plant in many places. The first advice is to choose a suitable area where to place the bindweed; many climbing species can suffocate and steal nourishment from neighboring plants, therefore it is always good to keep it in an isolated place (cultivation in pots is not recommended, given its wide and branched root system). The bindweed loves the sun, therefore it must be placed in bright places and with well-drained and not very compact soil; the waterings, sporadic and not very full-bodied, are to be done exclusively at the base of the plant, thus avoiding stagnation of water on the leaves. After 2 or 3 years we will proceed with the autumn pruning of the longer branches, through clean and oblique cuts. It tolerates temperatures even below zero very well and in temperate zones the flowering lasts until late winter.

Curiosity


A legend tells that on a spring day the Madonna came across a carter mired in mud; if he had offered her wine, she would have helped him free the cart. Since the man had no cups or glasses with him, the Madonna picked up a bindweed flower and had the wine poured into it, thus freeing the man. Since then it is also known as the «cup of the Madonna». The convolvulus is used for the preparation of herbal teas and purgative decoctions, thanks to the presence in the leaves and roots of glycosides and tannins. It also has a purifying effect on the liver and kidneys, and it is possible to buy the dried ones from specialized herbalists. The caterpillars of a moth develop on the bindweed, called the «bindweed sphinx»: its scientific name is Agrius convolvuli, and it is possible to observe this large butterfly feeding on the nectar of the bindweed flowers by means of its long spiritromba. The caterpillars reach considerable size and not infrequently, if present in large numbers, can completely defoliate the young convolvulus shrubs, leaving only the hardest and toughest branches intact.

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